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From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development
and not others, sometimes to the point of labeling as “lies” stories that teachers portray as “imaginative” (Heath, 1983). In one study of black families, parents often recounted their everyday experiences in ways that presented themselves in a feisty light—a style that was repeated by their children in their own stories (Miller and Sperry, 1988). The impact, it is argued, extends beyond the kinds of stories that are transmitted from adult to child, to the child's emerging views of the self (e.g., If I'm feisty, that's good; if I'm reticent, that's bad), built up by way of the everyday events that are recounted and endorsed among family members (Miller et al., 1990). One very interesting issue that this raises is how children react when they are confronted with differing or even competing messages between parents or among the various important adults in their lives (Goodnow, 1997).
Individual differences in parents' previous and current interactions with the larger sociocultural context also affect how they raise their children (Parke and Buriel, 1998). The socialization of ethnic minority children, for example, has been conceptualized as a highly complex process that is influenced by the socioeconomic resources (i.e., housing, employment, health care, education, jobs) available to the family and the childrearing goals and adaptive strategies that the parents adopt in this context, among other factors (Harrison et al., 1984, 1990; Hughes and Chen, 1997, 1999). Extended family members, notably grandmothers, play a particularly important role in these processes, contributing, for example, material support, income, child care, and social regulation (Wilson, 1986, 1989).
This model highlights the need for greater attention to the efforts that parents make to help their children meet the challenges they will face as members of a minority group in a race-conscious society. In some cases, this leads parents to encourage their children to adapt to two cultural contexts—that of the child's primary ethnic group and that of the larger “mainstream” society (Boykin and Toms, 1985). This strategy is observed commonly in the lives of many ethnic minority groups in the United States (see, for example, LaFromboise et al., 1993).
Most empirical data on biculturalism and on the use of alternative strategies by ethnic minority parents to facilitate their children 's adaptation have been collected from adult and adolescent samples (Parke and Buriel, 1998). It is therefore essential that this kind of research be conducted with samples of younger children, be extended to encompass nonminority parents, and be used to investigate distinctive strategies that are used by specific groups for raising children in an increasingly multicultural society.
An appreciation of the broad range of circumstances in which parents rear young children brings with it tremendous admiration for those who do it well. Conversely, conditions that pose significant challenges to the efforts of parents to get their children off to a good start in life warrant serious